The most important question I ask myself constantly while planning instruction is, "so what?". The most valid reason for learner disengagement is irrelevance. When designing learning experiences, I try to ensure that everyone always has a reason to be engaged.
In the case of this unit, What's your story?, personal connection is the hook as the learner will inquire into a family or community member to deduce connections between themselves, their research subject, and History. They will also use photo, video, and other media applications to organize a VoiceThread presentation to tell their subject's story, or personal history. VoiceThread will be the new technology application, for them and me. In terms of writing, we will inquire into writing a documentary style script and visual literacy as it relates to organizing and presenting media, as well as the importance of copyright and citation.
We have already started this unit by inquiring into primary sources related to the Russian Revolution and spread of Communism in Europe. It has been a great way to begin to explore Perspective in History and develop skills that students can apply to their independent research and project production. Most of the students are planning to create a personal history for a grandparent or older relative, so the connection to World War II and the Cold War should be very strong.
In terms of Global Collaboration, I understand the VoiceThread allows comments in various forms by any other VoiceThread users. I've been collaborating with a teacher in Hawaii who is very keen to exchange feedback via VoiceThread, which has been a strong motivator for me to learn that application. Another possibility would be to invite other teachers to do the same project and provide the students with an opportunity to link their presentations into a sort of historical net. Perhaps while my students are researching their subjects, I can delve into more research about technology tools to support this project.
We will be publishing our projects on our class blog, so I hope you'll come visit to see them in a month or so!